A project of Pencils of Promise
A dormitory & library to enable 200 high-potential students, primarily girls, to stay in school
Across the river, up the hill, and I reach for Noy's arm. We are at the only high school option in Champet, the province's poorest district just off the Mekong river in Laos.
Hundreds of kids are huddled in masses around their bamboo huts-a shantytown of teens. Noy, our Lao PoP Coordinator, looks like she may cry. We grasp arms for a moment as we take it all in.
The girls are bashful when we look inside their huts. Packed in four to a bed they sleep together, cook on the dirt over a small fire and lack any clean water or means to sanitation.
They built these ‘homes' themselves at the beginning of the school year. Every Monday they leave their villages and walk upwards of four hours to spend the week here.
Here: without their families, their privacy, their safety.
A teacher at the secondary school tells us it is very important that these girls are given a dormitory of their own. When we ask why he lowers his head and locks his eyes on the ground. "Because bad things happen. Very bad things."
At the start of each school week, hundreds of girls from faraway villages have to choose between their personal safety and their education. For them, though, the choice is obvious.
The only way to personal empowerment, agency, and ability is through this education. The safety they will have to forgo.
We ask many girls if they would like a place of their own to live-a dormitory for only females. Smiles explode onto their meek faces with eager yeses. They say they want a place where they are safe, where they aren't scared at night.
The perseverance, potential and pride in these females is astounding. Given the opportunity, they will be the leaders of this community. With a dorm of their own, they won't have to worry about their safety and health. They will have access to good hygiene and sanitation-invaluable skills that they can pass down through their school and villages.
They will have access to an education that isn't dangerous, an education that will empower them and the future generations for many years to come.
-Written by PoP Country Director Leslie Engle following a visit to Champhet with Lao Coordinator Noy Keosuvan, Photographer Nick Onken and PoP Founder Adam Braun.
We are going to build a sustainable dormitory & library for these 200 girls. 100% of your donated dollars will go towards the project. Please help make this a reality.